Christian Bleuer reinforces my skepticism of Chechen mania:
Chechens have been reported en masse by the media – much to the annoyance of Registan and the angry folks at Kavkaz Center. But still, no Chechens – no online martyr tribute, no name, no documents, no Chechen prisoners, nothing. I’ll be shocked if the “Chechens” killed a couple of days ago in Pakistan actually turn out to be ethnic Chechens. I’ll keep an open mind, but past reporting has all come and gone with no confirmation.
While I appreciate being lumped in with the Chechen insurgency’s propaganda wing, there’s a bit more to this.
The local Pakistani security forces claim to have found Russian passports amongst the attackers, which is a good indication they were Chechen (Chechens have been issues Russian passports for a while, though they can get “Chechen” passports if they try really hard). These passports supposedly had valid visa stamps for Iran, which… may or may not mean anything. Iran is sort of a smuggling corridor, so they could have sneaked through. I’m not sure why they’d need a visa, though (and I refuse to engage in “Iran is the root of all evil” conspiracy mongering like some CENTCOM desk officer).
The Russians, however, deny any knowledge that the dead are, in fact, citizens of Russia.
“We asked Pakistan’s foreign and interior ministries to provide official information on whether the dead militants had Russian passports. At the moment, there has been no official response,” Yaroslav Pavlov of the Russian embassy’s consular department said.
There’s another angle: What if those dead Chechens were unarmed when they were shot? That’s certainly what at least one eye witness is claiming:
“They raised their hands as a gesture of surrender but law enforcement personnel opened indiscriminate fire at them,” witness Irfan Khan alleged.
A private TV channel telecast the shooting by security personnel and an injured woman waving her hand and pleading with them to stop firing.
This doesn’t mean they actually were unarmed, intended no harm, and weren’t trying to do something. But it does raise the usual questions about the reliability of the Pakistani security services, and shows just how little we should depend on the first wave of news to make judgments about these things. Because just as often as not, they are flat out wrong.